Biting the Hand that Feeds: Ungrateful Homeless People

Yesterday, I was bothered by a Facebook status update from one of my dear friends. This friend is one of those people who has a heart so big that I seriously question her humanity at times. So she writes this post about having given a homeless person food and shockingly the recipient scowled at her gift. Clearly, he felt that he deserved something better than this Subway sandwich. What was even more shocking to me, was to read that this type of incident has happened multiple times to my sweet friend. Instantly, people began to comment on her post. It seemed that others had experienced this same phenomenon. So this had me really curious and I decided to google: “ungrateful homeless people.” Tons of articles came up. Most of them were blog posts ranting about this same issue. Obviously, this experience is very upsetting to people. This one, tells the story of a woman who discovered how to spiritually cleanse herself of such a toxifying incident. This one, is written from a Christian perspective about how to deal with the ingratitude of others in a Christ-like way. (It’s funny actually, the article is about ungrateful church patrons and the poor church leaders that have to deal with us!)

Anyway, I finally stumbled upon a gem, well in my nerd-opinion it was a gem. I found a psychological research article about the psychology of gratitude. Ok, so I actually googled “psychology of gratitude,” the article was not exactly “stumbled upon” but whatever. Here’s a link to the article if you’re a nerd like me and actually want to read it, otherwise I’ll sum it up for you.

So interestingly, the research suggests that gratitude is an emotion that is linked to people with pro-social personality traits like agreeableness and empathy. Huh, homeless people… pro-social personality traits… Something is telling me that those two probably don’t mix often. So could it be that the very reason these people are homeless in the first place is because they grossly lack pro-social traits like empathy? Of course, we couldn’t generalize this to ALL homeless people but it doesn’t really seem like this theory is that far of a stretch. Clearly the homeless man my friend encountered had no empathy for the effort that she put into helping him. Pro-social personality traits are the very characteristics that we all bank on. They help us keep our friends, our jobs… Not to say that people with anti-social personality traits are destined for homelessness, we all know that isn’t true (and unfortunately can probably think of personal examples). Yet, I just can’t help but wonder if this is a huge factor playing into the fate of the homeless.

All of that being said, what do we do with this information? I have no idea. I’ll admit that I’m a chicken when it comes to approaching the homeless due to this very issue. It’s like I don’t want to get rejected after trying to do something nice. The article above addresses that in a way. It says that by giving gratitude, the beneficiary feels indebted and “less-than” the benefactor. Yet, a homeless person can’t repay this debt. So is this ingratitude a twisted way for these people to hang on to their pride? A way for them to not feel so “less-than” or indebted to us? I don’t know. Whatever the reason, it sucks. It sucks because I want to feel like I did a good thing, when someone responds with ingratitude, my insecurity pops up and I question my actions. I start to wonder: should I have asked them if they had any allergies first? Am I somehow treating them as “less than” by not giving them menu options? Truthfully, I wonder: Am I really making a difference or was that a waste of my time and money?

My friend offered the solution to simply begin donating her time at soup kitchens. This sounds pretty good to me. Maybe there her time and energy would not only be appreciated, but would also be productive every time. Now, I don’t think that calling is for everyone. My husband, Caleb, is way more courageous than me and often interacts with the homeless. Interestingly, he has never experienced the “biting the hand that feeds” phenomenon. I’m not really sure why and neither is he. Sometimes I wonder if it’s his calling or something. He literally will feel a pull to go talk to people or to bring them food and so he does it. He’s even given people lots of money because he felt led to do so (that was an interesting conversation between he and I later… “Oh by the way, Honey, I gave $130 to a homeless guy.”). He’s found that it has changed his heart and has made him more open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. That is so awesome… for HIM. But maybe this isn’t the calling for all of us. Maybe our call to serve could be to pass the guy on the street with the “War Veteran and Hungry” sign as we drive to the local soup kitchen. Or, and I truly hope this isn’t the case, maybe I’m called to give to ungrateful people. Partially for their sake, but mostly so that my heart can be changed. So that I can learn to give regardless of anyone’s reaction. I’m cringing as I write this. I really am such a pansy when it comes to this stuff… but this whole issue has made me see that maybe I need to be more bold like my husband and my friend. Maybe I’ll get my hand bitten or maybe I’ll experience something divine. I guess I won’t really know until I try.


9 thoughts on “Biting the Hand that Feeds: Ungrateful Homeless People

  1. I agree it’s important to see tinhgs from their point of view. What seems like a little deal to us (finishing a yummy food or leaving a play ground) is huge in their lives. The other thing I have to remember is that often I have similar feelings but I’m just a tad bit more socialized to conceal them. How often have I been disappointed because someone else grabbed the last goody on a platter at a party? I may not have had a fit, and if offered it I would have been gracious and let the other person have it, but I still wanted more! We have been known to stay somewhere (someone’s house or an outing we’re enjoying) longer than is good for our little guy or even us just because we didn’t want to leave.I think another reason it can be so hard for them is that kids lack that kind of control to say yup, I know this is a bad decision but I’m doing it anyway (and too often when they are a little older and do just that, they are berated for it but that’s a whole different topic!)


    • !!Please Read!!. “ALL homeless People dont respect and revere people who go out of their way to help them” ….(I need Advice)

      . ….. I happen to be on a chatsite browsing one day, ..a longtime chatter Guy tells me he is living in a Homeless Shelter and is using wifi to try and see if he can get help, (i had chatted with him quite often before and he said he had been in and out of Shelters that whole time trying to make friends and hope for understanding people who would assist him

      So after I got the info on the shelter location he was at and then over the phone heard the Deafening Noisy situation he was living in, (plus they all slept in Chairs inside 1 large room) i offered him a room in my home in exchange for small assist around my house (snow shoveling, garbage-take-out, putting up doors, etc) all the meals were on me since he did not have any food assistance from the state or anywhere

      once at my house he whined to me that he could not even file for his back taxes from a few jobs he had done last year at a few places, because he had no way to get his w-2s, plus he had no id.

      so, i turned on my wifi and led him step by step on his cellphone through what avenues to take to get his w-2s And also different organizations to help him get his id. …afterwards almost in tears he Verbally thanked me and repeated that he would not have been able to do any of that in that Noisy overcrowded shelter

      BUT as soooon as it kicked in his mind that he was about to get tax money back, his WHOLE demeaner and attitude changed. …. He began boastfully talking about all the things he planned to do with his money, and he began getting VERY snippy and beligerant with me through any conversation we had.

      the Icing on the Cake? was then he began to Downgrade my house, Pointing out all the tiny repairs i need to do, even referrenced it as an almost shack at one point (the same place mind you that kept him warm, and lighted, and fed, and had his own bedroom, plus use of MY wifi

      I was in shock at his sudden Flipped attitude, instead of showing Gratitude for me taking him in from a bad overcrowded Shelter situation, he now acted like I was beneath him because he had a few tax dollars comming, (that btw “I” helped him even get the credentials for)

      now i dont believe in throwing a sick dog back into the streets that bit me, …but i am SERIOUSLY thinking about sending him back to that shelter to wait on his tax money. (because his whole attitude and Personality is too Twisted) …my belief now is that he was and is just looking for somebody he can USE until he gets on his feet and then he will sling mud and spit in their face on his way out the door, with no remorse and no thank you gratitude spirit at all.

      (Any Advice Pleeeease)


  2. I’ve been on the other end -poor – not homeless but could easily have been as we had no money for rent. I am well brought up so know how to show the right emotions, but in that time, I learned much about how it feels to be poor. Perhaps the homeless seem ungrateful because they would like to be asked what they want. We think they should be grateful for whatever they get, but if it is food, perhaps they don’t like it or can’t tolerate it. They are just as much people as everyone else is – If I don’t like fish when I am rich, I wont like it when I am poor (though I had to eat much stuff I didn’t like and would never touch otherwise) I know it is hard and they seem ungrateful but perhaps there is more to it than that. Mostly the homeless aren’t asked how they can be helped and they are treated without worth or value. A firend you would ask what they want to eat and you would take them to get it, a homeless person, we shove a sandwhich or something else at them and that should be enough to make them dance and sing. They are just as much human, they have dreams and desires, cravings and longings and many want an opportunity to get off of the street.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve encountered all types – most homeless people say thank you if I give them something, and many of them are quite effusive in their thanks. “Ungrateful” homeless people are fewer, but yesterday, I was working the line at a soup kitchen where I sometimes volunteer. One lady came up to us and said “So-and-so told me ya’ll have the worst food!” I sort of blinked and then chuckled. It was such an outrageous thing to say, just as smiling volunteers were serving her free food! But I think you have to remember that you don’t know what people’s circumstances are, especially homeless people. They might have mental illnesses (many do, in fact), or they have never had normal, non-abusive relationships and thus don’t know how to respond when someone helps them.


  4. This is a huge stage for Ally lately. She’s been so good up until this stage, but I rellay can’t handle the whining! I don’t even mind if she’s ungrateful, but when she cries about something that I can’t possibly give her (ie more smoothie from your example) it drives me nuts! Minimal concept of time yes, but she already gained a concept of quantity! Where did it go?!?!?!


  5. Your reasons for wanting to help a homeless person are selfish. Its about how U feel if U where U are led U getting upset. Imagine if someone took everything away from you and random people gave u a pb&j and expected you to dance around yet not get to know you or see whats you really need. There is plenty of food out there for the homeless what they need is someone to be there for them. If it seems like the reason your buying someone a sandwich is for U to feel good and less about wanting to get to know and find out how to help a person you are see through. Instead of finding out how U can feel good genuinly help another person. There is a difference.


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